SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California Governor Jerry Brown over the past weekend signed legislation that proponents say will expand the practice of optometry in the state. The California Optometric Association (COA), which supported Assembly Bill 443, said it believes the new legislation will improve eyecare access for Californians.

Assembly Member Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) is the author of the bill, which COA said will enable ODs to safely expand the number of procedures they may offer to patients and improve eyecare access for Californians.

“This important legislation is a step forward for the optometric profession, empowering doctors of optometry to more fully utilize our extensive training, education and experience to help expand eye and health care access to Californians,” COA president Dr. Sage Hider said in a statement issued earlier this week. “Improving such access is especially crucial for communities with lower incomes and those that are urban or geographically remote and face low numbers of primary care providers. AB 443 also strengthens optometrists’ role in California’s fight against diabetes, offering optometrists more tools to detect diabetes early, prevent blindness and save lives.”

Over the course of the past year, COA worked closely with health care stakeholders to enable doctors of optometry to expand the number of procedures they may perform under law, consistent with most other states. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the new legislation, according to COA, will:

• Allows therapeutic pharmaceutical agent–certified (TPA) ODs to use all non-controlled substance medications, noninvasive medical devices and technology that are FDA indicated for a condition optometrists can treat. As new technologies are made available, the State Board of Optometry may authorize their use by optometrists via regulation.
• Clarifies optometrists may prescribe currently allowable drugs “off label.”
• Allows TPA optometrists to prescribe Tramadol for up to three days.
• Allows TPA optometrists to treat hypotrichosis (allowing optometrists to use the prescription drug Latisse).
• Clarifies TPA optometrists may treat blepharitis.
• Allows TPA optometrists to give intravenous injection for the purpose of performing ocular angiography under a supervision protocol, allow TPA optometrists to collect blood by skin puncture for testing patients for diabetes, and allow TPA optometrists to use a skin test limited to the superficial layer of the skin to diagnose ocular allergies.
• Allows TPA optometrists to use a needle to remove foreign bodies, allow glaucoma-certified optometrists to treat steroid-induced glaucoma, and eliminate many of the protocols in current law and consolidate the referral requirements.
• Allows TPA optometrists to administer flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines after receiving training and certification.

California optometrists worked to win approval of this legislation for more than five years, Hider noted.